Low-Cost Livestock Systems
Low-Cost Livestock Systems Offer Profitable Alternatives
|Above: Demonstrations at Nebraska farms, including this one where cattle graze standing corn during the pasture's "summer slump," highlighted livestock systems that reduce feeding costs. The systems also require less labor, lessen odor, flies and dust, and minimize manure concerns. Photo by Wyatt Fraas.|
Nebraska ranchers raising cattle, dairy cows, poultry and hogs have a new source to tap to learn more about alternative, lower-cost production systems: other farmers. As part of a SARE-funded project at the Center for Rural Affairs, 10 producers opened their enterprises, complete with their hard-won tricks of the trade, to scrutiny by livestock farmers interested in learning about alternative systems, many of them grass-based. Recruiting farmers from throughout the state, the Center asked participants to allow evaluations of their livestock systems, including their costs and returns, and to talk about their practices to their peers. Preliminary economic data measured by project cooperators at the University of Nebraska showed annual net income for a participating dairy farmer who raised cows on well-managed pasture to be $713 per animal, compared to $439 per cow milked in a confinement dairy. While the grazier produced less milk, his feed and fertilizer costs were far lower than his conventional counterpart. Some of the farmers made presentations at well-attended meetings and workshops; others held tours on their farms. Muriel Barrett, a poultry producer who raises 10,000 birds a year on pasture, was happy to open her farm to tours. "We encourage them, let them know our ups and downs, and give them the benefit of our mistakes so their learning curve is less steep," says Barrett, who has reduced feed costs and receives $1.65 a pound for her pastured birds, 76 cents more than grocery store prices. By the second year of the project, about 700 producers and agricultural educators had learned about alternative livestock systems. Many of them were intrigued by cattle grazing systems that reduce both feedlot time and supplemental grain costs.
[For more information, go to http://www.sare. org/projects/ and search for LNC98-144]